Duty to Inquire Series | Ignorance is Risk

Aug 23, 2023

All Posts/ Duty to Inquire Series | Ignorance is Risk
Duty to Inquire Series | Ignorance is Risk

Wrapping up our series on an employer’s Duty to Inquire we examine the risk should an employer ignore their duty to inquire.

Addressing potentially problematic substance use in the workplace can present numerous practical challenges, especially considering the prevalence of reported issues within the industry. Construction employers face unique obstacles, including managing multiple projects with limited resources, making it harder to identify and support employees who may be in need of help. As we delve deeper into this topic, we’ll explore the duty to accommodate, the risks of failing to inquire, and the crucial role of developing an open and supportive workplace culture.

The duty to accommodate, while essential for ensuring a fair and inclusive workplace, can be onerous for employers. It demands providing accommodation up to the point of undue hardship, requiring careful consideration and resources to support employees effectively. Ignoring or avoiding such situations poses significant risks for employers, as failing to comply with the duty to inquire can lead to human rights claims or grievance if an employee suffers adverse employment consequences.

Although it may seem tempting to avoid asking questions that could trigger the accommodation process, this approach can lead to unintentional contravention of human rights law. Employers must recognize that decisions that appear reasonable on the surface might be deemed discriminatory if they do not inquire appropriately under the circumstances.

Failing to address potential concerns or make inquiries may expose employers to liability under occupational health and safety legislation. This is especially risky in the construction industry, where employees working under the influence can jeopardize their safety and that of their colleagues.

The legal obligations surrounding problematic substance use are further complemented by the moral obligations many participants in supervisor training speak of. These combined responsibilities compel a fundamental approach: fostering a workplace culture where difficult conversations are not shied away from and where employees feel comfortable disclosing that they may need help.

To navigate these challenges effectively, employers should strive to develop an environment where supervisors and managers embrace open communication. This involves creating a culture that encourages employees to feel safe sharing their struggles and seeking assistance without fear of judgment or repercussions.

In conclusion, confronting problematic substance use in the workplace requires a proactive and empathetic approach. Employers must recognize the potential risks of ignorance and understand the legal and moral obligations that come with addressing such issues. By fostering a supportive workplace culture, where conversations about mental health and substance use are encouraged, employers can create an environment that prioritizes the well-being of their team members.

Remember, seeking legal advice can provide valuable insights into the best practices for managing substance use concerns in your workplace.

This series is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.